BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) -- Songs of worship in Swahili, a new missionary testimony in American Sign Language and Gospel presentations by missionaries in Mandarin, Hausa, Russian and Fon representing a biblical view of the church worshipping God for eternity.
These were among the highlights of an International Mission Board dinner prior to the SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.
"The IMB exists to partner with churches to send missionaries, to make disciples, plant churches and train leaders among unreached people for the glory of God," IMB President Paul Chitwood said. "To do this, it is imperative that people have the opportunity to hear the Gospel in their language."
Kevin Rance, who was appointed as a missionary during the Tuesday afternoon SBC session, shared his testimony in American Sign Language. Dinner guests listened in silence, while reading subtitles on screen, as Rance told how it is important for Deaf people in every culture to see the Gospel signed in a way they can understand.
"I want you to know that every church, including your church, has a role to play in every nation hearing or seeing the Gospel in a language they can understand," signed Rance, who is being sent by Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Bogart, Ga., to reach the Deaf among Southeast Asian peoples.
Chitwood told the 1,600 church leaders and members attending the June 10 dinner that even with tools such as Google translator, Rosetta Stone and "a seemingly endless array" of language learning programs, more than 2,100 languages -- including 200 sign languages -- do not have Scripture translations that share a clear Gospel message.
At the IMB's convention exhibit, messengers were given the opportunity to help fund a translation of the Bible into the language of a Southeast Asian people group. More than $6,000 had been given toward the project, which costs $39,000, on the first day of the exhibit, Chitwood reported.
"This is one people group and one translation project, but it's a great example of a small part that every church plays in every nation hearing the Gospel. And every nation will hear the Gospel," he said. "We know that. How do we know that? We've seen the vision."
He referenced Revelation 7:9-10, which reads: "After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'"
Chitwood pointed out that the multitude worshipping God will not be a crowd from some nations, many tribes, most peoples and several languages. Rather, he drew attention to the adjective "all," noting the multitude worshipping God will include representatives from every nation, all tribes, all peoples and all languages.
"That's a big difference, and that's where you and I come in," he said. "For you see, the great, innumerable multitude could already be comprised of representatives from some nations, many tribes, most peoples and several languages. If that's the vision, you can finish your coffee and dessert and go home."
Chitwood encouraged attendees to look closely at the Scripture: "This vision -- the vision of heaven where all the tears have been wiped away, and there is no more death or sorrow or pain, and the Father is being praised in every language He has placed on the tongues of men, and His beloved Son is being worshipped by those who owe Him everything -- finds not only us there, but with us are those to whom we went out, in far reaches of the world, to tell the Good News.
"Many of that great, innumerable multitude from every nation, all tribes, peoples and languages will be there because Southern Baptists have seen the vision of heaven, and that vision has brought us together and, by God's grace, keeps us together," Chitwood said. "Every nation ... not some. All tribes ... not a few. All peoples ... not most.
"All languages ... not one missing from the great, eternal chorus of praise."
The dinner began and ended with music by the Swahili Evangelical Refugee Fellowship of Atlanta, a two-year-old Southern Baptist church. In the final song, Chitwood invited dinner attendees to sing Amazing Grace in chorus with the choir.
"Let's consider for a moment what it will be like around the throne singing praises to God in multiple languages," he said, as singers filled the ballroom with multiple languages, ending in a united chorus of "Alleluia, Amen."
The IMB dinner can be viewed on IMB's Facebook page @imb.sbc.